“Why am I still here?”
This question has been circling in my brain for years… Sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly. Lately it’s been on the more rapid side. There are many reasons that a person might ask that question, from why they are standing in front of the refrigerator to literally asking why they are still on the planet. My reasons? They relate to the church. Why am I still attending church, why did I agree to volunteer/serve within the church, and why am I in a position of leadership in my church.
This is a not a simple question to answer and the path to *my current* answer is messy and filled with hurt, sorrow, laughter and love. As I sit here typing and then retyping my next sentence, I’ve realized that the answer is a hard answer for many to accept and I want to make sure that it comes across clearly and not misinterpreted. Which ironically is one of the reasons that I keep asking that original question. This is officially your out. If you aren’t ready to get into some mud with me, stop reading now. No hard feelings!
Let’s get into this…
I am angry with the church. Like deep soul, pissed off at the American church. I am furious at how the church has treated people and treated me. The church has deeply wounded me and is still harming others.
(Side note: when I say “the church,” I am referring to the church as a whole. Yes, I recognize that there are individual churches and individual people who do not fit what I am saying. It’s a broad stroke generalization, but unfortunately the issues are more prevalent than not.)
The American evangelical church is no longer worshiping the same Jesus as the one in the Bible. They have replaced the God of the Bible with a distorted picture that just barely resembles what He actually looks like. While they may “preach the word”, they don’t actually live out the Scriptures that they espouse. The church insists that the nation that we live should mimic the words they proclaim. And that the only way to “be safe” in our country is to legislate the morality that they choose.
At some point, the church abdicated it’s role in caring for the poor and oppressed and left those issues for the government to address. They got comfortable in their shiny buildings, turned Sunday mornings into a feel-good checkbox and forgot how to talk to those outside the 4 walls of the building. And when questioned or confronted about these things, the response from the leaders in the church have been less than desirable.
Now before we go any further, please know that I have also been guilty of many of the things I just mentioned. I grew up in the church, spent my most of my life going to church every Sunday, youth group on Sunday evenings, revival meetings and so much more. I have also been in a few different denominations, so it’s not just one that has these issues. I say this to make sure you know that I am not saying that I am better than others in the church. I am saying these things *because* I have been complicit in this and it has taken years of processing and work to get the point that I am today. And I still have plenty of growth and work to do.
Let’s go back to that original question: “Why am I still here?” Why have I chosen to remain with an institution that is so flawed and has so many issues to address? Wouldn’t it just be easier to leave and let the church and her flaws implode?
My answer? Because God wants me here.
As angry and frustrated as I am with the church, I deeply love the people within it. (And outside it!) As flawed as the church may be, to just leave her to flounder and to continue to hurt others is not okay for me. God has given me a heart to see the brokenness and is opening doors for me to help bring healing. My journey is still very much at the beginning, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is the path that I am supposed to be on. That the things that I have faced, the hurt that I have endured, the harm that I have seen will only help me to help others. That telling my full story and letting others know that they are not alone will bring people closer to God.
I don’t know exactly what this looks like. But it starts with this simple statement:
God loves the world.
He loves everyone in it. Everyone.
And my role as a follower of Jesus Christ is to love people like God loves them. Through the hurt and the mess. Calling out the church when necessary. Being willing to get dirty and wade through the mud to help others out of it. To bring hope to those that need it. And it’s your role too, if you profess to follow Jesus.